Senate debates

Tuesday, 25 August 2020


Liberal Party of Australia

8:50 pm

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Jacqui Lambie Network) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, here we go again. Once again we have shocking evidence of the corruption that goes to heart of both the major parties. Now, we know that both of them have been engaging in industrial-scale branch stacking. More shocking—although, I'll be honest, it no longer shocks me what goes on up here—is the allegation that electoral staff were being used to recruit more members and that senior Liberals knew all about it. It is absolutely shocking behaviour but, once again, it doesn't shock me. I'm just no longer shocked with behaviour that happens in politics. It's beyond disgusting, but it's not surprising, because, let's face it, it happens; it continues to happen. And, once again, there's no ICAC. I wonder why?

The latest scandal has had its fair share of faceless men too. This one was just like the other ones: a young guy comes in who is focused on factual fights instead of achieving anything in the public interest. It's probably because his mother didn't put her boot far enough up his clacker. I tell you, he's lucky he's not my son, because that's exactly what he would have got. He was not putting the country first, or its people. It was all about self. He spent every waking minute trying to roll the moderate members of his own Liberal Party. He targeted religious people and others who had little or no interest in joining the Liberal Party, and once he had all of these signatures, it looked like he had lots of members and lots of power. Well, didn't you come unstuck, little boy!

I tell you, that's how branch stacking works. It's that easy, and it will continue because we do absolutely nothing about it. That's what I refer to as 'branch stacking 101'. These faceless men do it because they want to overrule genuine members of their party. They do it to suit their own political purposes, and all they care about is their own self-interest. It has really passed the point of being absolutely disgusting. I wish you people here would finally wake up to the fact that we need an ICAC, because this will continue until people start going to jail for this sort of thing. You can start leading by example.

Genuine recruiters are necessary in any party, but signing people up so that it looks like you have lots of members is not democracy; it's rigging the system. Actually, it's absolute political corruption at its very best. Yet it seems to be the norm up here. That's how bad it's got. 'That's alright. It's just the norm. It'll be right.' The ministers right at the top of this government have benefited from it. The Minister for Housing benefited from it and the former Minister for Defence benefited from it—which doesn't surprise me with him—and nothing will be done about it. The Liberal Party will not discipline their own, just like the Labor Party won't do much with theirs either. This behaviour will continue because there's very little disciplinary action when you misbehave. And this is called leadership? People are supposed to look up to us in this house. You call this leadership? I don't know what planet you're on, but it's not leadership; I can tell you that right now.

What's even worse is that these schemes are reported to have been operating out of the electoral offices—once again, that doesn't surprise me—of senior members of the Liberal government. Electoral staffers and their offices are paid for by the Australian taxpayer. That's alright, taxpayers out there, they're paying to win their seats, to branch stack, on your cash. Isn't it great? Then there is the taking of those dirty, filthy political donations on top. That's where we're at. They are there to assist the public and give them help and guidance where they can. That's what they're supposed to do; that is the purpose of the electoral office. I can tell you, in my electoral office it's too busy to be playing up because we're on call 24/7; that's what we're supposed to be doing. My staff field calls not just from Tasmania but from all over the country, and then we have what you could say is an overkill of veterans and defence personnel on top of that, because nobody else seems to understand the system, and there is certainly nobody who can help them.

Last month, for example, we had a blind 90-year-old pensioner, God bless him. He lives alone and had his funeral cash stashed under his bed. I do love some of these stories, because you can't help but see at least a bit of the funny side. He'd recently been robbed.

He was afraid the thieves were coming back. He was so terrified that they would steal the $9,000 he had saved to bury himself that at one stage he had buried it under his bed and forgot where he put it, so that was our first dilemma. After several calls over a couple of days my staff finally found out who his carers were, because we couldn't work that out either, to the point where we were about to go out and see him and go through his house. His funeral money was found safe and sound. His carers finally helped him get the money into the bank. That's what we're there for. We're there to help. That's a lovely story. We have plenty of them. Like I said, you have to see the funny side with some of them. The whole thing is we're there to help.

Then we have the veterans. They call us from all over the country and some from outside. I can't count the number of times they've called my office talking about taking their lives. I've lost count. I can't tell you the amount of times I've been up at 2 o'clock in the morning trying to talk them down from a ledge or from trying to put a rope around their necks. I don't get extra staffing. The girl that is employed does this 24/7 as well, one of the electoral staff. That's what we do. She's so appreciated that in the last two weeks she had three lots of flowers, because she's got these claims through. She's fabulous. God love you, Karen. One of these guys had been waiting 18 months just to get one part of his claim assessed. He came in for help and two weeks later he was receiving the help he needed. We're getting him back on his feet. I tell you what, you'll feel a lot more proud knowing you're doing that stuff than branch stacking. It's a lot more heartfelt in here than what those political donations or branch stacking will ever give you. I'll tell you that now.

My staff are amazing. They are always happy to help. That is what the Australian public pays for and it's what they expect, and from my office that's what they get. My staff are not there to spruik Jacqui Lambie. We have to raise our money for that. That's the way it is and that's the way it should be. During elections we have to stand at traffic lights with signs. I doubt you will see any other senator in Australia doing that. You won't see another senator borrowing someone else's van and putting 'Jacqui Lambie' all over it, or having little grannies come up and give her $2 or $3 so she can get a coffee. That's what it's all about. We earn it. We don't buy it and we don't branch stack. That's the way it is.

Yet senior members of the Liberal Party think it's fine to use their electorate staff for their party political purposes. They'd rather buy or branch stack than earn. These people don't get into politics to make people's lives better. They get into politics to make their own lives better, for their own egos and their own self-indulgence. Apparently anything goes, right?

The worst thing about the latest branch-stacking scandal is that almost exactly the same story came out a few months ago, except this time the party behaving badly was the Labor Party. Once again it was branch stacking on an industrial scale. In this case it was a senior Labor Victorian government minister using taxpayers' money and his own cash. He was creating fake branch members to build his own profile in the Labor Party. He resigned from the Victorian government the next day. I have to say that the Labor Party moved on that fairly quickly. At least they showed some leadership. I'm still waiting for you guys over there. Any time you switch on to what's going on, get up with the program, that would be great. Show some leadership, maybe.

I will tell you what, a minister resigning or a branch stacker being fired is not going to fix the corruption in our political parties. We had the usual finger pointing from both sides of politics. The truth is that most of the time you're as bad as each other, whether it's branch stacking, Aldi bags full of cash, or helicopters being used as a glorified a taxi service. It is not acceptable. It is totally unacceptable. Australians have had a gutful of the corrupt behaviour of the major parties. Politicians are elected and funded by the people of Australia to make the best decisions for our country, not themselves. They don't seem to care about the Australian people these days. It's all about furthering their own careers, building their own power networks and getting themselves re-elected.

While these stories pop up all the time, the politicians bicker between themselves. The public rolls their eyes. Australian's faith in our political system has hit rock bottom. The good news is that, unlike coronavirus, there is a cure for political corruption and it is called a federal anticorruption commission. We need one now. We needed one yesterday. We're going to need it tomorrow, because there's always another faceless man waiting to break the rules for his own political benefit. There's one thing the major parties have no shortage of and it's ambitious, young pups with no idea of how to help the country and plenty of ideas of how to rip the taxpayer off and help themselves and their mates. It's why I've called for an ICAC with sharp teeth—bigger teeth than Jaws, because it's got to have a bite, and by hell or Christ it's got to have one hell of a bite. We need to see who is putting the cash in the brown bags and who is being promised a golden job opportunity, because the faceless men must be unmasked. There must be real consequences for bad behaviour and an anticorruption commission can do that.

We need to do serious donation reform while we're at it. Let's just hit it all. Just a few months ago the Labor and Liberal parties tried to push a bill through this place that would have overridden state donation laws. If we don't get the money out of politics, nothing will change; it will just get worse. Both parties say they have the bills ready to go on a national ICAC, but where are they? Come on! What are you scared of? Not good enough? Not strong enough? Bring it on. I think it's about time the major parties woke up for the sake of a society that's done with this crap. There's nothing else to say.